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Information on how Monster Level affects monster stats can be found at Monsters.
Monster Level modifiers raise or lower the stats of the monsters you encounter. This adjustment affects the monster's attack, defense, HP, initiative, and the stat gains given after defeating the monster.
While increased monster level increases stat gains at the end of combat, enchantments that directly give Stat Gains from Fights do not affect monster level. For example, bringing a Blood-Faced Volleyball familiar will increase your stats per fight but will not make the fight more difficult.
Monster Level modifiers should not be confused with deleveling, which decreases monster attack and defense during combat, but does not alter stat gains.
For every point of increased Monster Level, the monsters you fight receive:
Colloquially, the term "Monster Level" (in the context of an absolute value, as opposed to "+X to Monster Level") is often used to mean "the value from which the monster's stat gains are calculated". For most monsters, this value is actually the monster's attack. Some people use these terms interchangeably. Each point of attack from +ML confers +0.33 stat gain, instead of the +0.25 stat gain normally given. Special Monsters instead calculate stat gains based on your mainstat, not the monster's attack.
Monster Level modifiers are not applied to monsters that are created during combat with a different monster (for example, amphibians produced by CLEESH, or tomb rat kings).
Since the May 14, 2014 revamp, running high amounts of +ML (Monster Level modifiers) gives the monsters new abilities, making them even more challenging. The exact details of these abilities are still being determined.
- Monsters gain physical and elemental damage resistance equal to ML*0.4%, capped at 50%.
- Negative ML increases the damage inflicted on monsters, using the same formula. There is no known cap on this (-245 ML gives a 98% damage increase).
- Beginning at +26 ML, monsters which are elementally aligned will inflict some elemental damage on the player at the start of combat. (How much damage?)
- Hot monsters: Some of your less robust hairs burn off as you approach <him/her>.
- Cold monsters: Your teeth chatter as you approach, not from fear but from the cold. Jeez!
- Spooky monsters: Fear grips your heart as you approach, in addition to gripping your <thigh>.
- Stench monsters: You gag as you approach it. What a stench!
- Sleaze monsters: The blood rushes to your face as you approach it, bursting several capillaries. How embarrassing!
- Beginning at +51 ML, monsters gain stun resistance equal to (ML-50)%.
- Beginning at +151 ML, monsters gain stagger immunity, and may land ordinary attacks even when heavily outmoxied (needs spading)
- If your ML bonus is negative, such as from equipping a Drowsy Sword, your stat gains are only determined by the monster's attack divided by 4.
Based on this, here are some basic adventuring strategies:
- Safe Adventuring: For maximum safety, know the peak monster level of an area, and don't enter it until your moxie is at least 10 greater than that level, guaranteeing that you can only be hit by monster critical hits.
- If you are relying on basic weapon attacks, your attack stat (muscle or moxie, depending on your weapon type) should be equal to or greater than average ML. This usually means you will hit at least 50% of the time. Likewise, if your moxie is at or below average ML, you will likely get hit and need to heal periodically.
- Increasing ML is a cornerstone of most speed ascension strategies. For increased stat gains, increase monster level to the highest point you can, while still reliably winning battles.